“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” – Isaiah 55:6
When I think of everything that runs under the banner of religion or spirituality – from rules for life to teachings of grace, from ritual to ecstatic outburst, from relationships to doctrinal definitions, from civic duty to kingdom’s not of this world – there are a lot of polarities that people might think religion is about. And it is not that they are all wrong. Religion in this world does take on a lot of secondary traits. And it is dealing in stereotypes, but most institutional forms of religion end up being more about those “distinctives.” Ecstatic religion? Head on down to the Pentecostal gathering. Relationship driven sanctification awaits at the Wesleyan Methodist Assembly. And if want ritual, you really can’t beat the Orthodox Church. And those are just within Christian religions. The Buddhists seem to be a home for the philosophically inclined. The Muslims will give you the five pillars of the good life. Us Lutherans? Well, we used to be a bit more united: some solid ritual, the pastors will argue to death over doctrine but the laity keep congregations going through steady relations.
Now I don’t want to say all of that is meaningless. It is not. But none of it is the real point of religion. If your religion in not the place where God draws near, you are missing the point.
That assertion is a live wire. So I’m going to cover it a bit. Saying that God draws near is not just confined to ecstatic experience or feeling, although it might include that. Saying that God draws near is not about saying the right words in the right order as if you were conjuring Him, but He has promised to be present in some rituals, like baptism. Saying that God draws near is more about having faith in the promises of God. Without faith we would not recognize His presence. Most people might look at the cross and see another poor revolutionary receiving just rewards. It is faith that sees the innocent Son of God drawn near to save.
When the prophet tells us to seek the Lord while he may be found, that time is the time of grace. And the time of grace is when you hear it proclaimed. Like right now. The Lord has drawn near to you with his grace right now, if you should accept it. And if he has drawn near, Call upon him. Like the boy Samuel hearing his name. It took Eli a couple of times to realize that God has drawn near. “Tell him, speak, for your servant is listening.” Call upon him with all your heart. Call upon him with the biggest request possible. Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence.
The Grace of God is like the sun. There are days that it might feel too strong and overpowering, that we must withdraw. And maybe we move a bit away. Find some shade. But when it is gone, all you can think about is how cold and dark things are. Seek the Lord while he may be found. Because today is the day of grace. The sun comes up every day and follows its course. But the day shall come when the sun does not give its light. And you do not know that time. Call upon Him while he is near. Work while we still have the light, for the darkness comes when no work can be done. Pray, praise and give thanks while the day is here.